Clevedon Town FC
Having originally started playing in 1880, Clevedon are one of the oldest clubs in the West Country and were founder members of the Western League (now the Screwfix Direct League) in 1892. Their stay, however, only lasted three seasons when they dropped back into local football before re-joining the Western League in the 1910/11 season. Their early years were spent at Dial Hill, still the home of the local cricket club, but they moved to a new site at Old Street (later re-named Teignmouth Road) in 1895 where they remained until 1992.
When football resumed after the First World War, Clevedon found themselves in the Bristol & District League and Bristol & Suburban League before a switch to the Somerset Senior League in the early 1930’s helped Clevedon increase their status, and they were to stay there until World War Two brought a temporary end to the League. However, Clevedon stayed in business and entered the Weston-Super-Mare League, dominated by teams from nearby RAF Locking. This often meant playing against international stars stationed at the Camp, although Clevedon had their share of service personnel stationed in the town.
After the War they again returned to the Western League and, despite a moderate league record, built up a reputation for themselves in the F A Amateur Cup, reaching the Rounds Proper no less than 8 times in 13 years. In those days that was no mean achievement and their success brought them to the attention of the national press. There were many notable victories, including home success over Brigg Sports, Ilford and Dartmouth United. They also faced the mighty Pegasus, Harwich & Parkeston (who went on to reach the 1953 Final), Wimbledon (then an Isthmian League side), Billingham Synthonia and Carshalton Athletic.
The F A Cup also brought success with several tussles against Southern League opposition. One of the finest performances was at Merthyr Tydfil when 10,000 people gave them a long ovation after they were defeated 2-1 after losing a player with a broken leg after just 20 minutes. The record home gate was recorded against Bath City in September 1951 when 2,300 witnessed a 3-1 win for the Southern Leaguers.
Cup success, however, was not matched in the league and they spent several years in Division 2 before resigning, for financial reasons, at the end of the 1957/58 season. They joined the Bristol & District League where they remained for 15 years, before rejoining the Western League in 1973/74 after amalgamating with another local club, Ashtonians United, who were already members of the Western League ranks. The club’s name was later changed to Clevedon Town to reflect their new status. With the breaking up of the old amateur status, Clevedon joined the professional ranks in 1974 with Ray Mabbutt (father of Spurs captain, Gary Mabbutt), becoming the first paid player.
The building of a new clubhouse and the installation of floodlights in the early 1980’s nearly bankrupted the club. Debts were running at well over £100,000 and desperate measures had to be taken to save the club. The Board of Directors was forced to resign and the introduction of several new faces saved the club from total disaster, with the overdraft being reduced by careful budgeting and management. After many years as a mid-table side things began to change a few years ago when the club decided to sell their Teignmouth Road ground and move to a new site at Davis Lane on the edge of the town. The club had the foresight to buy the Teignmouth Road site for £450 in 1949 and this wise move enabled the club to sell off the ground, pay off their remaining debts and build a purpose built stadium from the proceeds.
After the ambitious announcement to move grounds, it was only natural that the playing ambitions should be raised. In 1991/92, Terry Rowles was recruited as manager from Mangotsfield United who signed a whole new team and set about reviving the club’s fortunes on the playing field. In the last season at Teignmouth Road, they finished as runners-up to Weston-Super-Mare , playing their last ever match at Teignmouth Road on 20 April 1992.
1992/93 was to prove by far the most successful in the club’s history and it was heralded by the move to the new Hand Stadium. This superb development included an all weather pitch, training facilities, a 300-seater stand, tiered terracing around the whole ground with an excellent clubhouse and dressing room facilities. Gates increased to an average of 421 and the team ended up winning the league title in style, remaining unbeaten and scoring 137 goals in only 38 matches. The season ended with a first ever League Cup Final appearance and election to the Beazer Homes League followed to round off a superb first season at the new ground.
Beazer Homes Midland Division
In their first season in the Beazer Homes Midland Division, they finished a creditable fifth after having to start the campaign with a new manager, Steve Fey, and a brand new team. After just one season the club were transferred across to the Southern Division, finishing 9th in 1997/98 before being switched back to the Midland Division for the 1998/99 season. The switch clearly benefited the club as they managed to win the Midland Division Championship after a wonderful season in which they also won the Somerset Premier Cup. In their first season in the Premier Division the club finished in a creditable eighth place and have now fully settled into the Dr Martens League, with ambitious plans to develop the ground into a sports and social complex to serve the local community. The club sadly suffered relegation back to the Western Division at the end of 2000/01, despite winning the Somerset Premier Cup that season and again in 2001/02. An era ended in September 2004 when manager Steve Fey left the club after 11 years in charge and was replaced by former Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United manager, Kevin Hodges. He, in turn, left the club in October 2005, with Clevedon top of the league table, to become assistant manager at Coca-Cola League club, Yeovil Town. Former Bristol Rovers player and coach, Phil Bater, took over the job, becoming only the fourth manager at the club in 19 years, and completed the job started by Kevin Hodges by building on his success and guiding the club to their second Southern League Championship success and back into the Premier Division.
In November 2006 Clevedon Town played in the first round proper of The FA Cup for the first time in their history, losing 1-4 at home to Coca-Cola League 2 team Chester City in front of a record attendance at The Hand Stadium of 2,261. In their first season back in the Premier Division Clevedon consolidated with an 18th place finish in 2006/07, and in 2007/08 improved on this by finishing 11th. However, despite this improvement, and leading us to the final of The Southern League Errea Cup, where we lost 1-4 on aggregate to Hillingdon Borough, manager Phil Bater resigned at the end of the season, leaving his assistant Wayne Powell to take over the reins for season 2008/09. With many senior players also leaving at the same time Wayne was forced to rebuild the side, and on a much reduced budget, but despite his best efforts The Seasiders ended 2008 at the bottom of the Premier Division, and Wayne was relieved of his duties. The task of saving Clevedon Town from relegation in 2009 was handed to former Port Talbot Town manager Nick Tucker. Nick and his management team immediately brought in a few new players, who gelled quickly into the team and, as results gradually improved, Clevedon Town ended the season in 18th place – one place and two points above the relegation zone.
Most of the players were retained for season 2009/2010 but, as the UK recession started to bite, Clevedon were forced to reduce the budget again and several senior members of the squad left in January 2010. Nick Tucker brought in replacements but the team continued to struggle, particularly at home, so in late March 2010 with The Seasiders languishing in 20th place, Nick offered his resignation, which was accepted by the Directors. Peter Beadle, once a prolific striker with both Bristol Rovers and Bristol City, who had a brief spell at Clevedon as coach under Kevin Hodges, as well as managerial experience with Taunton Town and Newport County, was asked to return to The Hand as caretaker manager to lead Clevedon through another battle to avoid relegation. However, despite “Beads” best efforts, the team picked up just two points from his eight games in charge and Clevedon were duly relegated after finishing in 21st place.
In the summer of 2010 former Bristol City, Wycombe Wanderers and Northampton Town defender Micky Bell was appointed as the new manger of Clevedon Town and he assembled a young but inexperienced squad that finished 20th in their first season back in Division One South & West. In 2011/12 they again came 20th in the league. But it was in the cup competitions that Clevedon achieved great success as they won The Red Insure Southern League Cup, beating Premier Division team Banbury United 2-1 on aggregate, and then were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Blue Square Conference South outfit Weston-super-Mare in the Somerset Premier Cup Final. Further cup success eluded the team in 2012/13, but they improved their finishing league position to 15th in a season that featured away wins at all four of the play-off teams.
In January 2014 Micky Bell parted company from Clevedon Town and former player Paul McLoughlin was asked to move up from his roles as first team coach and head of the academy and youth sections to take over as manager. The team went on to finish 17th and followed this in 2014/15 with 18th place. However, due to problems with the floodlights at The Hand Stadium, Clevedon Town were demoted back to the Western League for the start of the 2015/16 season.
The Hand Family
No history of Clevedon would be complete without paying tribute to the Hand family, without whom the Club would almost certainly not exist. H G Hand (Secretary 1895-1912) and A W Hand (Secretary 1918-1968) were followed by Doug Hand, who retired as Club President at the end of the 1994/95 season after 50 years service to the club, much spent in the same way as his father and grandfather, as Club Secretary. Doug sadly passed away in November 2013 aged 92. Without their enthusiasm and hard work over the years, the club would probably not be in the position it is now and it was only the wisdom of A W, in buying the Teignmouth Road site, which laid the foundations for the present successful club. It was a fitting tribute that the present ground was originally named The Hand Stadium after them, and the families’ service to the club has been recognised by the Football Association.
Clevedon Town AFC Honours